North Korean voters face little choice in local elections

The reclusive state typically sees near-100% turnout as voting is mandatory for those over 17 and abstaining is an act of treason

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The Independent Online

North Korea has held local elections to decide provincial governors - with the official turnout recorded at a near-perfect 99.97 per cent of the population.

Voters do not mark their ballot papers, but put them into a ballot box to show support for pre-approved candidates. There is only one candidate on the paper for each district.

A near-100% turnout in North Korean elections is common since voting is mandatory for everyone over the age of 17 and abstaining is considered an act of treason.

Observers say the polls are used as an informal census, allowing the authorities to ensure citizens are where they are supposed to be and identify defectors.

According to the official figures from the weekend's poll, then, 0.07% of the eligible population avoided the vote.

North Korea has a population of 24.9 million people. Figures for what percentage of North Korea's population are of voting age are not available, but perhaps a rough calculation can still be made:

The CIA World Factbook records that 21.5% of the population is under 15, and a further 16.3% are between 15 and 24 years old. Extrapolating somewhat, about 18.8 million North Koreans may be of voting age.

At a very rough estimate then, about 13,160 North Koreans were either excused from voting or took their life in their hands.

Those elected in the vote over the weekend will have four-year terms, but very little political power. Analysts say they are intended to validate decisions made by the government and rarely meet.

Nonetheless, North Korea analysts will have monitored the elections for signs of who is favoured by Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean leader.

Mr Kim himself is an elected official; in the last parliamentary election in 2014 he won 100% of the vote in his Mount Paektu constituency.

North Korea's full official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

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